A Day in the Dark Critical Overview
by Elizabeth Bowen

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Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

“A Day in the Dark” was first published in the journal Botteghe Oscure in 1955. It appeared in Mademoiselle magazine in 1957 and then became the title story in Bowen’s 1965 collection of short stories. In a review of that collection, F. L. H. Jr. praises Bowen’s detailed descriptions of setting, concluding that “Miss Bowen carries over a novelistic technique to her short stories.” Many other scholars have applauded Bowen’s attention to detail in these stories, including Edwin Morgan who writes in his review of A Day in the Dark that in this “rich selection of her short stories,” “Miss Bowen shows again and again her skill in evoking atmosphere, weather, gardens, houses, brooding human feelings.” He also finds a strong connection between place and the “convincing psychological realism” of her stories. Echoing this conclusion, Laurel Smith, in her article on Bowen in the Dictionary of Literary Biography determines that “Bowen unobtrusively steers readers through the geography of motives and interactions on which human identity and human character depend.”

Turning to “A Day in the Dark,” F. L. H. Jr. insists that the story is “a timeless gem about a girl’s recognition of the complexities of love.” In her article on the story, Lis Christensen claims that it “has been hailed as a Bowen classic.” She echoes the positive reviews of the collection when she notes “the dominant role played by rooms and houses and landscapes” in the story. She also praises the story’s narrative voice, commenting that “The handling of the narrator provides a degree of ambivalence and complexity . . . that places it among the most sophisticated of Elizabeth Bowen’s writings.” F. L. H. Jr. illustrates the appeal of this collection and specifically of “A Day in the Dark” with the conclusion that “It’s great to be a reader in the same world in which Elizabeth Bowen writes.”